Nascar nights – Not Normal Network Needs

Major sports events are being networked to an ever greater extent. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), for example, provides several tools for fans watching a live event.

Radios, called race scanners, are available so fans can follow the communication between drivers and their crews during a race. The leaderboard is available in your smartphone, so you can stay up-to-date on the drivers’ positions. And recently, Brad Keselowski made history by becoming the first driver to tweet while racing (during a stoppage).

At each race, mobile-network coverage is needed for up to 192,000 fans as well as the teams of the 100 participating cars. In addition to having coverage inside the venue, parking-lot coverage for pre-race tailgating is vital. The network demand at such events is far from normal and requires temporary reinforcement. This requires and add-on network, which is designed as a complement to the existing network.

Ericsson supports race sponsor and US operator Sprint with a managed-network solution for such events.Two teams and two complete equipment setups cover the 38 yearly events on a rotating scheme. For a venue like the Texas Motor Speedway, five Cells on Wheels (COW) are deployed. COWs are mobile cell sites containing antenna towers and electronic radio transceiver equipment on trucks or trailers. The temporary addition is designed with two COW inside the venue with six antenna elements and three outside with three antenna elements each.

I was given the opportunity to visit the Ericsson support team during the race in Texas on April 14, and I was truly amazed by several things:

  • It takes just three days to assemble the temporary network
  • More than 50 transmission links need to be connected
  • The mix of 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi represents a very “dirty” radio environment, calling for careful network design and optimization
  • The data capacity is three-and-a-half times larger than the current data capacity for voice
  • NASCAR does not allow teams to collect any telemetry data beyond fuel injection mapping, and the collected data is published for all to see.

The debate has begun on the role of networks in enhancing the fan experience in sport, and some feel that tweeting is distracting the drivers or athletes. But having gained more than 100,000 new Twitter followers in one day, @keselowski is clearly breaking new ground.

My predictions for the future of networked sports are that:

  1. All major sports arenas will upgrade mobile-data access within three years for capabilities to deliver seamless 3G/4G/Wi-Fi access to the devices of fans and the staff supporting the sport
  2. Online experience at the venue will be an integrated part of live events
  3. Innovations around social media, TV and mobile devices are key in attracting new generations of fans
  4. Spectators will use smartphones and soon bring tablets for replays and special statistics at the venue, as a complement to the jumbo TV screens already in place 

Billing Beyond Bits & Bytes

© Peter Linder 2012 – All Rights Reserved      Canon 7D | 8-15mm/4 | ISO 100 | 1/250 s | F10
© Peter Linder 2012 – All Rights Reserved      Canon 7D | 8-15mm/4 | ISO 100 | 1/250 s | F10

Today’s most common broadband business model – fat pipe at a flat rate – was launched in 1996 when ADSL and cable came along. The model was re-used when mobile broadband was introduced in 2005. But should this classic business model be used in all networked industries? How do we deal with traffic volumes that can differ by thousands of times among applications that generate similar revenues?

In my daily life, I use three applications with widely differing price and traffic patterns:

  • A smartphone with a data limit , costing tens of dollars per month for 2GB of traffic
  • A Netflix subscription costing dollars per month and generating 30GB of traffic
  • A work environment (mobile, desktop and associated data services) costing hundreds of dollars for 10-50GB of traffic.

All three of these services can be provided with mobile access. It’s hard to see how dollar values spanning from tens of dollars per GB to only a few cents per GB can and should be supported using a single billing base, namely the number of bits and bytes that are transported. Since the value delivered is becoming more and more decoupled from the amounts of bits and bytes transported, and in many cases correlates negatively with traffic volumes, new business models are inevitable.
Imagine what would happen if a hamburger restaurant adopted a unit price per calorie of food. If this were applied to the standard menu, the prices would be very high for burgers and fries – and very low for salads. As a direct result, burger sales could be expected to fall sharply, and sales of salad would shoot up. It would be hard to run a sustainable restaurant business using this kind of business model.

We now have the potential to deliver exceptional added value on mobile broadband. Business-model innovation is essential if we are to capture this generated value. Otherwise, it will be difficult to continue funding the required investments for 3G/4G/Wi-Fi network infrastructure expansion and modernization.

My forecasts for the future of networked business models are:

  1. Business-model innovations will focus on  5 to 15 % of mobile broadband traffic that is most valuable
  2. The billing base for these services will be linked to new kinds of service-level agreements involving one or several new connectivity attributes such as latency, latency variation, availability, reliability, security, integrity and coverage
  3. The factor determining how platinum or gold services and users are defined will shift from “who uses the most network resources?” to “which services or users generate the most revenue or the best margins?
  4. Most business-model innovations will involve higher charges for service providers, to be bundled into the overall price per service.

Mobile networks are among the most advanced infrastructures in business today, and there’s no reason that the value captured in these networks should decline as the value added to adjacent industries increases substantially over time.

Significant Society Shaping Started!

© Peter Linder 2012 – All Rights Reserved
© Peter Linder 2012 – All Rights Reserved      Canon 7D | 8-15mm/4 | ISO 200 | 1/30 s | F4

Over the past few years I have seen Ericsson’s vision of the Networked Society evolve,creating opportunities that benefit the way we live, work and play. But where did the concept of the Networked Society come from? How can the journey be quantified? What future predictions can be made?

In the spring of 2008 an Ericsson team drew a simple graph on a whiteboard to stimulate a brainstorming session. The context was simple. The global potential for fixed broadband is restricted to just north of 1 billion physical locations, then we run out of houses and offices. Similarly, the market for mobile broadband is restricted to around 5 billion people. So what’s next? The next big wave, which is already under way, is to move beyond people and go after digital devices that can benefit from being connected. We picked 50 billion as a hypothesis for the size of this next wave.

Connecting the first 5 billion people with mobile phones was only possible as a result of significant industry collaboration between mobile operators, terminal providers and network providers.

To journey from 5 billion to 50 billion we made two assumptions:

  • Users in the Networked Society will be dependent on many more digital devices in the future and each user will have 10X (an order of magnitude) connected devices
  • The Networked Society will not be created by the mobile communications industry alone, 10X adjacent industries will be involved

Connected devices that aren’t PCs, TVs or mobile phones will generate only one-tenth of the average revenue per user.And those assumptions weren’t far off. More and more devices are becoming available, connecting people and things.These are my predictions for the future:

  • 50 billion = 5 billion (people) times 10X (devices) times 10X (industries) times 1/10 (ARPU) is a reasonable assumption for growth in the coming decade
  • Significant cross-industry collaborations will continue to connect the world’s biggest machine (the global network)  –  50 billion connected devices –  to adjacent industries
  • Within 5 years,the norm for the most advanced users of devices today will become the norm for the mass market
  • The changes that take place in digital mobile communication over the next 5 years will be greater than those that have taken place in the previous 20.

I think these figures back up our bold statement “When one person connects, their life changes. With everything connected, our world changes.” A connected world is just the beginning.